What are APA-style Citations?

APA style uses the author-date citation system (e.g. Brown, 2019).

An in-text citation briefly identifies the source then directs readers to a full reference list entry.

Each in-text citation must appear in the reference list, and each reference citation must be cited in the text. Both paraphrases and quotations require citations. 

The following are the guidelines for the key elements of APA citations:

  1. Ensure the author names and the publication dates in reference list entries correspond to the in-text citations (i.e. make sure names are spelled correctly).
  2. Only cite the works you have read and the ideas that you have incorporated into your writing. Examples of works you may cite can include those that provide important background information, support or challenge your argument, or further clarify definitions or results. 
  3. A long list of in-text citations can be difficult for readers to follow. Only include the citations necessary to support your argument. 
  4. Use primary sources when possible, but secondary sources can be cited sparingly. 
  5. Sources should be used to verify all information (theory, figures, etc.) that is not common knowledge. 
  6. When citing a specific section of a source, prove both the in-text citation and a brief explanation of the specific part. 
  7. Still cite sources that can’t be retrieved, such as in-person speeches or interviews. However, avoid using online sources that can no longer be accessed.  

In-Text Citations


Simply put, paraphrasing restates the author’s ideas in your own words. This citation style allows you to summarize information from sources while focusing on only the most crucial support for your argument. 

When you paraphrase in APA, cite the source using either the narrative or parenthetical citation format.


Holmes (2014) argues the film Whiplash portrays the dangers of suffering for art. 

In 2014, Holmes argued the film Whiplash portrayed the dangers of suffering for art. 


Chazelle’s Whiplash portrays the dangers of suffering for art (Holmes, 2014). 

Chazelle’s Whiplash portrays the dangers of suffering for art (see Holmes, 2014, for more detail). 

Though, not all paraphrases need to be short. Paraphrases may continue for several sentences, such as: 

For potential new members, the tradition of running home on Bid Day culminates the experience of finding a Greek organization. For sisters and returning members, sorority sisters who temporarily disaffiliated from their organizations to be recruitment counselors, running home is both the physical manifestation of their work during recruitment and the chance to reunite with their organizations (Burns, 2017).


Unlike paraphrasing, a direct quotation uses the author’s words verbatim to affirm your argument. It is best to use direct quotations over paraphrasing when:

  • Using an exact definition 
  • When an author has phrased something memorably
  • When you want to respond to the author’s exact wording


Horváth and Kovács (2020) note “plagiarism is often a matter of confusion rather than deception” (p. 4).

Note, the page number. When taking a quote from a source, always provide the author, year, and page number of the quotation. This applies to both parenthetical and narrative quotations. If the work you are quoting does not include page numbers, feel free to omit this section of the citation. 

The following is a brief guide to including page numbers in quotations: 

  • For a single page, use the abbreviation “p.” (e.g., p. 25, p. S41, p. e221).
  • For multiple pages, use the abbreviation “pp.” and separate the page range with an en dash (e.g., pp. 34–36).
  • If the quote is on separate pages, use a comma between the page numbers (e.g., pp. 67, 72) 

Block Quotations 

Quotations consisting of 40 words or more should be formatted as block quotations. Block quotations do not use quotation marks, begin on a new line and are 0.5 in. from the left margin, and are double spaced.


Bernabeu (2021) describes how hair indicates health and femininity in Brontë’s novel: Long, loose hair also seems to be indicative of good health and subversive femininity in Wuthering Heights. Nelly describes Catherine’s ‘hair flying over her shoulders’, when chronicling one of Catherine’s ‘frenz[ies]’, and the description accompanies a depiction of ‘her eyes flashing, the muscles of her neck and arms standing out preternaturally’ (WH, p. 86). Later, she explains that Catherine’s ‘thick, long hair had been partly removed at the beginning of her illness, and now she wore it simply combed in its natural tresses over her temples and neck’ (WH, p. 113). These descriptions associate Catherine’s loose hair with her animation, an agitated liveliness that is temporarily subdued at certain moments during her illness.

How should a parenthetical in-text citation be formatted? 

An essential component of a research paper, in-text citations are a way of acknowledging the ideas of the author(s) of a particular work.

Each source that appears as an in-text citation should have a corresponding detailed entry in the References list at the end of the paper. Including the required elements in every citation allows other researchers to easily track the references used in a paper and locate those resources themselves.

There are three pieces of information that should be included in a citation after quoting another writer’s work: the author’s last name, the year of publication, and the page number(s) of the quoted material, all of which are separated by commas. The page number should follow a lower-case letter ‘p’ and a period.

  • Basic structure: (Author, Year of Publication, p. 142)
    • Example: (Kutner, 2003, p. 451) [1]

If the quoted material was taken from more than one page, use two lower-case letter ‘p’ s.

  • Basic structure: (Author, Year, of Publication, pp. 194-196)
    • Example: (Kutner, 2003, pp. 451-452) [1]

How should multiple authors of a single source be cited?

There are a few guidelines to follow when citing multiple authors for a single source. Separate the names of the source’s authors by using commas. Depending on the location and instance of the citation, an ampersand(&), the word and, or the term et al. may also need to be used.

When should an ampersand be used?

Ampersands (&) should only be used in parenthetical in-text citations. An ampersand separates the last and second to last author of a cited work.

  • Example: Research has demonstrated that “synesthesia appears quite stable over time, and synesthetes are typically surprised to discover that other people do not share their experiences” (Niccolai, Jennes, Stoerig, & Van Leeuwen, 2012, p. 81). [1]

When should the word and be used?

The word and should only be used in a sentence or paragraph; do not use it in a parenthetical in-text citation. The last and second to last author of a cited work are separated by the word and.

  • Example: Niccolai, Jennes, Stoerig, and Van Leeuwen (2012) observed that “synesthesia appears quite stable over time, and synesthetes are typically surprised to discover that other people do not share their experiences” (p. 81). [1]

When should the term et al. be used?

When citing a single work with many authors, you may need to substitute some of the authors’ names with the term et al.  The term et al. should not be italicized in your paper, and a period should be placed after the word al as it is an abbreviated term. Follow these guidelines regarding the usage of et al.:

Use et al.:

  • The first time and every time you cite a source with at least six authors.
    • Example: The in-text citation of Zoonoses: Infectious diseases transmissible from animals to humans, a book authored by Krauss, Weber, Appel, Enders, Isenberg, Schiefer, Slenczka, von Graevenitz, and Zahner, would appear as follows: [2]
      • (Krauss et al., 2003, p. 91)
      • As Krauss et al. (2003) observed, …
  • Every following time (after the first instance) that you cite a source with at least three authors.
    • Example: Citing the article “Modality and variability of synesthetic experience” by Niccolai, Jennes, Stoerig, & Van Leeuwen would appear as follows: [1]
      • The first instance: (Niccolai, Jennes, Stoerig, & Van Leeuwen, 2012, p. 81)
      • Every following instance: (Niccolai et al., 2012)

Avoid using et al.:

  • The first time you cite a source with up to five authors.
    • Instead, list all of the authors at their first mentioning.
  • To cite a work that only has two authors.
    • Instead, always list the two authors’ names in every citation (separated by either an ampersand or the word and, depending on the location)

For more information about referencing sources in APA, see also:

[1] Niccolai, V., Jennes, J., Stoerig, P., & Van Leeuwen, T. M. (2012). Modality and variability of synesthetic experience. The American Journal of Psychology, 125(1), 81-94. Retrieved from JSTOR database at http://www.jstor.org/

[2] Krauss, H., Weber, A., Appel, M., Enders, B., Isenberg, H. D., Schiefer, H. G., . . . Zahner, H. (2003). Zoonoses: Infectious diseases transmissible from animals to humans. Washington, DC: ASM Press